Oman says navy exercises with Iran will boost ties
'MUSCAT, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Oman said on Tuesday joint sea manoeuvres
planned with Iran would boost relations between the two countries.
A spokesman for Oman's Royal Navy told Reuters that preparations were
under way for the naval exercises that would take place ``soon.'' He did
not give a date.
The planned manoeuvres follow months of a gradual warming of relations
between non-Arab Iran and its Gulf Arabs, ending years of open hostility
and mutual suspicion.
On Monday, Iran's navy chief Admiral Abbas Mohtaj was quoted as saying
the exercises would enable Gulf countries to forge ``reciprocal respect.''
News of the planned exercise could upset the United Arab Emirates which
is locked in a bitter dispute with Iran over the sovereignty of three small
but strategically-placed islands in a key Gulf shipping channel.
Earlier this year, the UAE threatened to leave the six-nation Gulf Cooperation
Council (GCC) -- which also includes Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia
and Qatar -- because it was unhappy about the pace of the rapprochement
between non-Arab Iran and the Gulf Arabs.
Iran and Oman agreed last year to military and logistical cooperation,
including joint military exercises.
The Islamic republic, keen on forging regional alliance to offset foreign
presence in the Gulf, has tried for a decade to conduct joint military
exercises with U.S.-allied Gulf Arab states, which had been wary of the
war games Iranian forces regularly staged in the Gulf and the Oman Sea.